For the last year, my wife and I have been coaching leaders in The Project Mood Curve. The mood curve is the path life takes. Every relationship, project, and experience goes through the mood curve.
The dip in The Mood Curve is what we like to call the Pit of Despair. In this place, our mood bottoms out. Inevitable struggles, conflict, annoyances, unmet expectations all lead to the unavoidable middle phase of The Mood Curve. This is the area where one of two things happens. We either quit or we persevere.
When we use this tool in coaching, we encourage leaders to indicate where they are in terms of the bigger picture of a project. It is meant for hope, to show people that a) they are not alone – everyone goes through the mood curve and b) the pit of despair is not failure; it is not a bad place. It is where intimacy develops. As we persevere, character develops. Growth happens.
But what if it doesn’t?
Leaders are asking us about people they are serving who might look at The Mood Curve and say, yep, that’s it. The Pit of Despair. That’s where I am!
What if people seem ‘content’ with the Pit? What if they decide they aren’t going to leave there? Or believe the lie that they can’t? What if someone looks at The Mood Curve, shrugs, and decides they don’t mind it down there.
It’s a good question. The reason it is a good question is because it happens.
First, this kind of approach is the seed of victim mentality. Hopeless, stuck, trapped. Until someone else or something else drags this hypothetical person out of the pit, they pretend as if they’re ‘okay’ there.
The reality of this maneuver is that it is quitting. There are only two real choices in the Pit. Quit or Persevere. We cannot avoid making the choice. Implanting is not some mystical third option. It is quitting, plain and simple.
The reasons we might quit but not actually quit are numerous. We might still have a hope. But I think the biggest thing that would be happening here is that people want to quit but they don’t want to start over.
If we quit in The Pit of Despair, we cycle back to the top of The Mood Curve and begin a new project with hope and superficial expectation.
Sometimes restarting is just as terrifying as persevering. The man who has been divorced seven times and the man who has spent the last twenty years in a constant, acceptable turmoil with his wife, are suffering from the very same lack of perseverance. A famine of commitment.
If we don’t start anew, we don’t have to be disappointed anew. And so, wallowing in our most recent disappointment is often more appealing than the real possibility of a new one.
The Mood Curve is like a wave. You cannot pitch a tent on any point of it. It is a curve of momentum. Always billowing forward through the current of choice. If we try to plant our feet in the sand and avoid it’s momentum, we will build up pressure and at some point it will overpower us.
We cannot truly sit in the pit in the same way that we cannot truly stop time. We experience it, honestly and timely. And then, we must make a choice. We must decide. Is this worth it? Is this project, relationship, experience, worth my perseverance? Or is it time to quit?
Life is not a spectator sport. There are no bleachers. We can writhe and wiggle, complain and shield our eyes all we want. But we cannot avoid the choices, wave after wave.